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How to Create Equality and Inclusion Through Design

Offices have transformed a lot over the past few decades. Once cubicle-clad and filled with harsh fluorescent lighting, these workspaces have been getting some serious makeovers of late. With employers recognizing the relationship between office design and wellbeing, many are now taking this concept to even greater heights and ensuring their workspace fosters equality and inclusivity.

Let’s take a closer look at how both of these factors can be achieved through design, as well as how you can make sure your workspace meets a diverse range of employee needs and preferences.

The Importance of Offices that Work for All

When you think of an inclusive office that meets the various needs of employees, you might think of one that contains wheelchair ramps or accessible restrooms. While both of these elements are legal requirements in workplaces, inclusive design goes above and beyond these.The aim is to accommodate a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional needs to assist each employee in carrying out their role to the best of their abilities.

Fellowes recently conducted a Workplace Wellness Trend Report, which examined the role office design has on employee satisfaction, productivity, and wellbeing. It found that 87% of workers would like their current employer to offer healthier workspace benefits, such as wellness rooms, more accessible fitness options, and sit-stand desks.

In fact, studies prove that the best-performing offices implement active and biophilic design, prioritize overall ergonomics, and contain different spaces designed to support a variety of work-related activities.

How to Encourage Equality and Inclusivity Through Design

Thankfully, there are a number of elements you can incorporate into your office design to ensure the individual needs of each employee are being met, thus achieving equality and inclusivity. Let’s look at each of these in more detail below.

Implement Living Walls

When it comes to creating an equitable workspace, employers shouldn’t overlook the benefits of living design elements. Living design, or biophilic design, creates an office space that meets the common needs of all employees, such as cleaner air, more natural light, and the serenity that exposure to elements of mother nature bring.

Research also shows the infinite benefits of plants in the workplace, such as noise reduction, improved productivity, increased creativity, stress reduction, and reduced levels of sickness and absenteeism.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to increase natural elements in your office is with a living wall. Not only are living walls stunning to look at, but they can also be used to create separate areas within your workspace. This makes them the perfect solution for implementing quiet zones, private meeting rooms, meditation spaces, or other areas which cater to employee wellbeing.

Our Model Z living wall, for example, can easily be positioned in various places throughout your office, or moved to an entirely new location. It’s designed with hydroponic technology that uses 75% less water than plants grown in soil, self-irrigates, and monitors plant health 24/7, requiring very little upkeep.

Combine Open and Closed Spaces

Speaking of creating separate zones within a workplace, it’s vital that an office features a combination of open and closed spaces to meet a wide variety of needs. While the closed-off cubicle trend is long over, so too are offices containing just a single, open space.

The reasons for this are plentiful. You see, not only do workers find that being crammed into tight spaces greatly reduces their morale, but employees in cubicles are also 29% more likely to be interrupted, leading to 9% higher levels of exhaustion.

Open-plan offices might have seemed like the solution to this problem, but they aren’t without their own disadvantages. Studies show that open-plan-only workspaces contribute to a rise in office noise pollution, leading to a lack of concentration, headaches, irritability, and even hearing disorders.

Combining both open and closed spaces within a workplace provides a solution that meets all employee needs. It also accounts for the fact that these desires will change depending on the situation. Introverted workers or those with developmental disorders (such as autism or ADHD) may find communal working arrangements overwhelming and distracting, while more extroverted workers may struggle to work in isolation. Other employees will work best with a blend of these two types of workspaces.

When a workplace offers both quiet, private work areas and communal areas designed for communication and idea-sharing, they provide the best of both worlds to meet different employee preferences or needs, based on the task they are carrying out. This doesn't just help employees to feel more comfortable; it can also help to boost productivity, allow companies to retain great talent, and cut down on wasted time.

Think Outside of the Box

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. With so much of their life being spent within the workplace, it comes as no surprise that employees now want this space to encompass and meet the needs of their lifestyle — even when they’re not actively engaging in work tasks.

Therefore, the key to creating an inclusive and equal workplace is through thinking outside of the box. In other words, consider what other beneficial ways your employees can utilize this space to aid their wellbeing or to make elements of their life easier.

This might include having an onsite gym, meditation or yoga rooms, childcare options, parent or lactation rooms, prayer rooms, or areas where employees can gather to play games after work. A workplace that meets all of these needs and goes above and beyond being just an area for work gives employees a space where they feel accepted, included, and respected.

The Workplace of Tomorrow Starts Today

Rather than trying to make the best out of traditional office spaces, companies are now carefully designing their workplaces to adapt to a greater number of individual needs and preferences.

Office design may have changed drastically over the past few decades, but by focusing on how these spaces can now foster equity and inclusion, they’re certainly heading in the right direction. If you’re looking to improve inclusivity in your workspace through living design, you can start by implementing living walls. Get in touch with our team today to learn how your office will benefit from our Model Z Living Wall.


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